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Industrial engineering is concerned with the design, installation, improvement, evaluation, and control of socio-technical systems in virtually all sectors, including manufacturing, distribution, government, energy, health care, and finance. A distinguishing feature of the industrial engineering discipline is the integration of humans, machines, materials, and information to optimize the performance of such systems using available resources in the most efficient way, but without degrading social and physical environments. Industrial engineering training should provide future practitioners with the set of competencies that are required to create and maintain flexible organizations, which in turn are able to adapt continuously to the dynamic environment.

Information Engineering option

The industrial engineer strives to make people more efficient and effective by ensuring that they have easy access to the right information at the right time. The rapid developments in computer technology have created a management information explosion. A systems view of an organization must necessarily address the following issues:

  • Providing access to data and distributing relevant data to all who need it.
  • Reducing large volumes of data into information that is useful to the management process.
  • Coordinating the decision-making processes of people and computers in the organization.
  • Designing information systems to suit the needs of particular organizations.
  • Managing the evolution of information systems within an organization.
  • Positioning information technology in the strategic development of a corporation.
  • Taking advantage of information technology in a global market.
  • Turning legacy data processing systems into strategic, competitive information technology tools.

In addressing these issues, a distinction is drawn between computing and system technologies, which are clearly relevant to every engineer, and the more specialized industrial engineering topics such as integration technologies, management of information technologies, and integrated systems. The latter topics address the unique qualities of integrated systems within a particular class of organization, such as manufacturing, business, and health.

Human Factors and Ergonomics option

Industrial engineers also improve productivity and efficiency by studying and improving the actual physical work environment. Human factors engineering is the study of people as workers and as managers, both from the physiological and psychological points of view. The study of human physiology, particularly the nervous system, leads to fascinating discoveries concerning reaction to stimuli, sensory perception, human performance at operator tasks, and people's ability to process information.

These principles are applied to the design of human-machine systems, with particular attention to problems of information display, control layout, compensatory controls systems, and the design of work environments. People's behavior in work organizations is examined from the point of view of individual and social psychology. These studies lead to important conclusions concerning managerial and leadership styles, organizational goals and incentives, employee relations, and the implementation of planned change.

Operational Research and Management Science option

Operational research and management science involve the mathematical modeling of real systems and processes with a view to being able to predict and optimally control their performance. For example, statistics are used to determine how much inventory should be carried in a warehouse to minimize expected costs of carrying the stock and of shortages. Queuing theory is used to analyze the waiting time of people or jobs waiting for service in banks, emergency rooms, and production facilities. Linear algebra (called linear programming) is used to determine the optimal product mix to maximize profit subject to capacity constraints on resources, or the optimal allocation of service facilities (such as fire stations) to minimize the expected service time.

Areas covered by this option include scheduling, reliability, maintenance, forecasting, queuing, value analysis, and decision-making under uncertainty. Much of today's industrial engineering activity is the application of management science in support of decision-making at all levels of an organization.

Careers in Industrial Engineering

Industrial engineers develop processes and systems that improve quality and productivity. Industrial engineers make significant contributions to their employers by saving money while making the workplace better for other workers. As such, they can find work in any organization that values these goals.

To browse Industrial Engineering Jobs, please visit the ENGINEERING.com Jobs & Careers page.